Sage: Wife asks how to get husband to listen to doctor – and to reason! – about exercise

Dear Sage:

My Dear Husband underwent an angioplasty procedure last year and a stent was placed in one artery that had become partially clogged. His doctor yells at him during every office visit, telling him to exercise and lose 15 pounds. I’ll give my guy credit for one thing – he eats a fairly healthy diet and doesn’t sneak Devil Dogs or Ring Dings or Goobers chocolate-covered peanuts, largely because he knows that the kids and I will wash his mouth out with Bueller’s Butt Kickin’ Hot Sauce if he does. The main challenge now is getting him to exercise, which is like trying to coax a jackass 20,310 feet up Mount Denali.


He develops – or imagines – aches and pains in his feet, thighs, knees, hips, back and points north, and every time he gets out of his chair he sounds like a moaning, bellowing moose mixed with a touch of squeaking hamster and mooing ox. The doctor says that a lack of exercise brings on this discomfort, as everything else is fine. How can I get my dear blockhead out and about and on a healthy track?

                                                                                 – ­Esther in Elk’s Breath, Michigan

Dear Esther:


   The Sage has spent a lot of time near Elk’s Breath over the years and marvels at the scenery, including beautiful aquamarine lakes with Caribbean hues, as well as crystal-clear streams and rivers. And he fondly remembers the restaurants where one can enjoy dry wheat toast with a dollop of cherry butter, a hard-boiled egg and a cup of coffee – much more sensible than the pancakes that are three feet in diameter and that come with eggs cooked in eight ounces of oily sludge, topped with sausages imprinted with the phone number and address of the local cardiologist. But he digresses.

   The Sage humbly assumes that Dear Hubby is more than healthy enough to get off his duff and get a little buff – and that emotionally he’s in good shape. If the doctor says that brisk walking, gardening, canoeing, swimming, cross-country skiing, tennis or golf are just fine, well, why not?

   He could also choose something a bit more exotic, such as the World Wife Carrying Championships or a competition where you toss a 38-pound wheel of cheddar cheese like a discus, then race down a hill to catch it on the roll before it winds up in the water treatment facility. Hey, whatever works!

   There is also a very serious issue here. Studies have shown that at the end of their lives, people tend to regret the things they did not do. In this situation, you (and he) would get cold comfort if your husband one day mentioned that he wished he had done more exercise. Not to be too judgmental or didactic, but this is a matter of individual and family responsibility. Your husband owes it to himself to do everything he can to prevent premature disease – for his sake, for yours, and possibly for your children and grandchildren.

    That may seem like overreaching and putting an undue burden on him. But say that you are both collecting Social Security. If he passes on, you lose one of your two checks each month. If he is one of the lucky ones and has a pension from his company, is it possible that payments would end upon his death? And that doesn’t account for the loss of your spouse and all the related emotional pain and loneliness. And are the kids nearby and inclined toward learning the nuances of elder care and all the medical, legal and lifestyle aspects of it?

   If he thought about aging in those terms, perhaps Hubby would view his situation as an opportunity to stay healthier longer, and also as a chance to enrich your life as well – not to mention the good fortune to embrace his relationship with children and grandchildren. And might well play a major role in their development and set an example of excellent parenting and grandparenting – emotionally, physically and perhaps even financially, say, possibly in terms of helping out with the $150,000 that your granddaughter will need for her small, intimate wedding in 20 years.

    Just think how much less gratifying family holidays, birthdays, and other milestones would be if one member of the family were forever absent.

   Not to put the onus strictly on Dear Hubby, as you, too, might do well to participate. To avoid boredom while exercising, try walking vigorously along one of the beautiful Michigan waterways. Go with your best friends and chit-chat. Vary your routine to maintain variety and interest. Try bowling, dancing, or badminton (note: this one will not often work in northern Michigan in February) You might also enjoy riding a bike, swimming at a Y or getting on a treadmill (or even stepping in place while (1.) tuning in to your favorite TV program or (2.) watching reruns of ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,’ which will irritate you to the point where you will start running like hell and end up in Idaho). Schedule weekend getaways to gorgeous parks or waterfront communities and build in exercise as part of the itinerary. Take along healthy snacks.

   Please keep in mind that, all other things being equal, the fortunate among us usually do have a good deal of control of our health. Remember what’s at stake and stay active – consistently. View it as a crucial part of your life, right behind oxygen, water, food, sailing and Michigan college football. Just make the time.

    Perhaps he might not want to start out tossing and chasing a rolling 38-pound cheese wheel, but he can certainly walk a new puppy a mile or two! Hmmm…

   Savor all the outdoor beauty that your magnificent state has to offer. Work hard, stay strong, and, hopefully, live long. Tell Hubby to get off the couch and stop being a grouch!


Humbly Yours,

The Sage